Welcome to Colorado!

For those of you who followed our journey across the United States, we appreciate your support! If you've not seen The Zen of Ken and Jen click on that link to read all about the Just BeCauses TerraTrike Tour we just completed. 4500 miles of pedaling to raise awareness for Organ Donation!

We now live in beautiful South Fork, Colorado where we do a lot of skiing. We work at Foothills Lodge and Cabins so if you want to come see the stunning San Luis Valley for yourself, just let us know because we know of a great place to stay!

If you are looking for the archives or if you want to become a follower, just scroll down the bottom of the page and you will see the links.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sunflowers for Easter

I adore sunflowers, and they are my favorite because my daughter adored them too.  I remember her being so fascinated with how they would turn and face the sun.  "How do they know where the sun is, Mom?" I shared a love for the seeds with Alex, and long after she was gone I would find the empty shells she had left behind.  To this day they remind me of her and anytime I see anything sunflower, it's like getting a "hello" from my little girl.  For that reason, sunflowers and their seeds are very special to me, so it makes sense that I enjoy growing them so much.  I often sprout the hulled seeds, which causes them to become very high in protein, and this time I planted the seeds that were still in the shell so that we could enjoy their sweet greens as a salad or in our wraps.

Today I harvested our first batch and we will have them as a part of our Easter meal.  As I pulled each one from the moist earth this morning, I said a long prayer of thanks for them, as well as for all of the other wonderful foods we have been so blessed to have learned about with our new lifestyle.  I recognize each food now as a little miracle all of it's own.  Each seed, each sprout, each green, and each flower is truly incredible and I am in awe of it all.

Notice how in this picture (below) the small section in the drawer is doing a lot better than the bigger section?  This was an experiment to see which kind of seeds grew better.  One side has a rather pricey and SMALL bag of organic seeds planted in it, and the other has the sunflower seeds that I pulled out of our very inexpensive birdseed.  Not organic, I know, but guess which side is which?
As you can see, it doesn't take much to grow these as far as equipment goes.  I grow mine in an old drawer someone gave me.  See the watering can behind the drawer?  I found it. It was broken.  I fixed it with some gorilla tape and it works just fine.  There is no need to buy anything to grow sunflower greens because you can just use what you have lying around.  You can even grow these on a cafeteria tray, in a pie plate, or in a baking dish.  Just sprout them for a couple of days, then put them in some high quality soil.  Water them lightly every day and in a week or two you will have a sweet salad that you grew yourself.  If this feels good to grow a little sunflower salad, I can only imagine what it will be like when I am growing all of my own food!
This is what they look like after you pick them.  I spent a long time pulling them one by one instead of just cutting them off like many people do (not that there is anything wrong with that) but I used the early morning time I spent harvesting to sort of meditate and give thanks on this special morning, and I felt so much peace.
Happy Easter, everyone!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

How to Make Your Own Liquid Laundry Soap (HE Washer Safe)

This is a REALLY easy and fun way to be more green and to save lots of cash.  When you make your own laundry soap at home, you can do 20 loads of laundry for the same price you pay for one load using Tide.  20 loads!  And it smells however you want it to smell since you add your own essential oils.

Since we started working as Innkeepers at Foothills Lodge and Cabins last October, we purchased our initial investment of supplies and haven't had to buy any additional ingredients since.  We still have LOTS left and that was over 6 months ago!  Running to the store because we've run out of laundry soap is a thing of the past around here. I will give you a list of the supplies you will need to purchase as well as links to websites for the stuff that isn't found at most stores, and I will provide pictures of each item as well as pictures of each step of the process.  We live 47 miles away from the nearest big box store or large grocery store so if we can find all the ingredients, I know you can too!  Okay, let's get started!

What you will need:
A Stove
One Large Stock Pot
A long spoon for stirring
A 5 Gallon Bucket
2 Cups of Washing Soda (Soda Ash)
2 Cups of Borax
1/4 Cup Dr Bronners Liquid Castille Soap
15-20 drops Essential Oil
Hot Water

You will need a big stock pot.
And some soda ash, also known as Washing Soda, which is baking soda's tougher big brother.  We got a 50lb bag of it for $38 and you can see how much we've used so far.  Buy Your Washing Soda HERE
This stuff is AMAZING.  Much of the same stuff we use to make our laundry soap can also be used to make all-purpose cleaner and bathroom cleaner.  A couple drops of  Dr Bronners goes a long, long way.  The heavily worded label and the history behind the soap are REALLY interesting, too.  
 We usually use lavender but one of the coolest things about making your own soap is that YOU get to decide how it smells.  And, added bonus, many of the oils available are antibacterial or antifungal which is great for getting your clothes even cleaner.  You can find these at most all health food stores.
Some recipes Ken found while researching how to make our own laundry soap call for vinegar to be added into the detergent, but he found it works better when he adds it to our fabric softener slot in the washer.  When we do this it rinses through after the soap has, and for whatever reason when we do this we don't need to use dryer sheets.  Even living at 8200 feet where it is VERY dry, we don't get shocked anymore.  I really hated that so this was one NICE discovery (thank you for the idea, Dad).

Okay, now that you have all of your supplies gathered, let's take a look at the actual process:
First fill the stock pot to about this full with hot water.  We don't filter ours but it's not a bad idea.
Then add two cups of Borax.
And two cups of Washing Soda (soda ash).
This looks HUGE for some reason, but it's really only 1/4 cup, I promise.  Dr Bronners liquid Castille Soap comes in lots different "flavors" including rose, hemp, citrus, and almond to name a few, but our favorite (right now) is the lavender.  They all smell absolutely fantastic so if you don't know which one to get, don't stress it too hard.  It's gonna smell and work great no matter what scent you get.  Go ahead and get the big one, too, since there are so many uses for Bronners Soap.  There is not a single health food store or pharmacy in the entire country that doesn't carry Dr Bronners (seriously, it's true) but if you want to get it online:
Buy Your Dr Bronner's Soap Here
Pour the Borax and Washing Soda in the water.
Give it a stir.  It's not boiling but it's getting pretty hot so be careful!
Add the 1/4 cup of Dr Bronners.
Add about 15-20 drops of oil.
Give it another quick stir.  I would suggest using a longer spoon that Ken is using here.  :)

 Right before your lovely smelling concoction comes to a boil, remove it from the burner and pour the contents into an empty 5 gallon bucket.  
Then fill up the stock pot again with HOT water and pour that into the bucket.  It will just about fill the bucket, and that's what you want.
See how it's almost full?  The size of your stock pot might make this a little different, so just remember that the recipe makes 5 gallons, so if you have to add a little more or a little less, that's okay, just as long as you end up with 5 gallons.  

And that's it!  Wasn't that simple??  Cover the bucket and let it stand over night.  In the morning when you take the lid off it will be ready to use.  Don't worry if there are little clumps of stuff in it.  That is perfectly normal and those dissolve easily when you start the load.  It might look kinda funky compared to that thick, pretty stuff you're probably used to, but it's not about how it looks, it's about how your clothes look, and they will look (and smell) FANTASTIC!
We put our finished product in recycled bleach bottles. 
And we tie a ribbon on them so we know which ones have detergent in them and which ones contain that nasty old bleach.  Honestly, we do still use some bleach here at the Lodge because people are really tough on our all-white linens and we have yet to find anything tough enough to remove the really bad stains.  Peroxide works on a lot of things, but not everything!  Do you have any suggestions for what to use instead of bleach?

Leave a comment if you have any questions.  And I'd love to hear about if you try this yourself!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cool Morning Hike

Early this morning, before it got too windy, Ken and Simon and I went for a hike around the Million Reservoir.  The air was crisp and cool and as is always true in this area, it was beautiful.

 Simon needed a little help getting across the creek.  His Daddy was happy to help.  
 A pack of wolves or coyotes must have run through this area last night because there were LOTS of these prints around and they were big!

Can you see the big drops of dew on these fuzzy plants?  CLICK ON THE PIC and then click again to enlarge it and you will.  The sun was just hitting them when I snapped this.
I love to macro things in like this and then come home and study them up close.  It fills me with awe and wonder and Izzi.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


My parents are here visiting!  Yesterday I took them to the always groovy Piece of Art Cafe/Organic Peddler where they got to meet the owner, my friend KimAnna.  Afterwards we grabbed my banjo and headed over to Creede to talk to Courtney at Big River Music and then we went to check out some of the old mines in the area.  We were told by someone there at the mine museum that recently a new vein of silver had been discovered and it is much larger than the largest vein in the area!  This means that Creede will once again be a bustling mining town full of activity and excitement.  Here are some pictures of this VERY historic area.
This was taken at the very edge of town.  As soon as you leave the downtown area the road turns into dirt.
 Karen and Galen.  My parents.  :)
 LOVE.  Me with my two favorite men in the whole entire world.  LOVE.
 By now you know about this silly tradition, right?  =)
The guys, waiting for us girls to stop taking pictures so we can get down the road.  =)
The cliffs are jagged and as the road narrows, you feel as though you've gone back in time a hundred years.  
 There were five old mines back there, I think.  There is still one working mine in the area.
Amazing that so much of the structures still remain.  It looked like it could crumble and fall at any moment, though, and it was pretty windy up there.  
We had the dusty road to ourselves, but it wasn't hard to imagine this as being an area full of hard working miners using old equipment to get the silver out of the earth.
Wonder why it's way up there like that?

I am their only child.  =)
And they are my only parents.  I love them bunches and I am so glad they get to see where I live.  It's an incredible area, to say the least.  They've been here before, years ago, before they even had their RV and were just truck camping. Mom remembered being here, but my Dad wasn't so sure.  Mom got to be right, though.  =)
 Downtown Creede.  If you ever get a chance to come out to this part of the world, you don't want to miss this little town.  It may seem like just an old mining town, but there is much to see and do here in the summer months.  It even has a live theatre that brings people from around the world.  Check it out at:  Creede Repertory Theatre

Thanks for stopping by Colorado with us today!  See you again soon!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Our New Solar Dehydrator

Well, we've been Raw Vegans for two months today.  And we've been Clean and Sober for two YEARS today!! :)  Looks like the lifestyle changes we've been working so hard on are really going to stick.  Yeah!!

Anyway, today was an exciting day for us food-wise because instead of buying a dehydrator we made our own!  Using scraps we found lying around we were able to put together a solar dehydrator that will allow us to make things such as sundried tomatoes, crackers, pizza, garden burgers, and so much more.  Today I made crackers using flax, carrots, tomatoes, onion, garlic, celery, and herbal seasonings.  And I made my first batch sundried tomatoes.  Put together they taste like pizza!  :)

In case you are interested in making your own dehydrator, I've taken pictures and included basic instructions that I think may be helpful.  If you have any questions, please just ask.  I would be glad to help.  And THANK YOU to Toni Allen for the inspiration and for the instructions. I appreciate it!

First thing you do is find some scrap junk lying around.  What you are looking for is wood to make a box with (2x4s or something like that), a piece of glass, and some wire mesh or strong screen.
If you don't have lots of tools, the size of your dehy will probably be somewhat determined by the size of the materials you find.  Ken sawed off the boards so they would be the same size as the wire mesh.  Then he used big staples (fencing nails would work too) to attach the mesh to the wood.  No need to nail or screw the boards together since the mesh holds it all in place.
I used a paint made for high heat so it wouldn't come off and get onto my food.  Still toxic, I know, but I had to get the mesh cleaned up and painted, so I just made sure I let it dry really good before using it.
The glass I used is actually an antique window from the old train depot in Alamosa.  How cool is that?  Thank you to Scott and Karen for letting me have such a cool window.  :)
Ken takes a look at the final product.  We let it dry for two days and nights.  And then, today, WE TRIED IT!  Here's what we made:
This is what it looks like under the glass.  When I take the glass off you can see better.
You can put hinges on yours if you want to, but I just lift the window off when I want to put something in or take something out.  It's heavy but that's good.  It's really windy here.
In this pic you can get a better idea of the size.  I also set it up on two boards to get more breeze underneath. Later I might build it up one more board but for now it feels solid so it's good enough, I think.
Can't you just taste em?  Mmmm....

Being on a Raw diet means no foods cooked above 118 degrees.  So for things that would normally be cooked we can heat them with the sun and dry them with the wind.  The possibilities are endless!